Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Needs to Change!

Christian Marriage AdviceIt’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to talk about a really common feeling women have: Why is it always me who needs to fix the marriage, when my husband needs to change! If he’s the one who needs to change, why is it always me who needs to do the work?

I totally understand the sentiment. One woman wrote it this way after reading my post “Does Everything Really Come Down to Sex?”:

I am not sure why but this post makes me feel a little angry inside. I guess women should sex their husbands regularly so that their husbands will be productive members of the household…It just seems so ridiculous to me. I wake up at 5, feed the baby, make the kids lunches, take the kids to school and daycare, go to work, come home, make dinner, clean up dinner and prepare for the next day. I literally don’t stop until I get into bed (usually around midnight.) I do all of these things because it is what I have to do. If I don’t my husband won’t. How am I supposed to make sure he is pleased when he doesn’t do anything to help or please me. Do I like sex? Yes, but when am I ever energetic enough to do it? Hardly ever. “Sex is your way of saying to him, “I’m committed to you, I love you, I want you, I value you.” If he knows that and feels it, it’s so much easier to then bring up the really big issues that are bothering you.” Wait, so me taking care of our children, feeding our family, keeping our home, none of these things say that I love and value him? I bristle against the notion that in order for our husbands to want to please, help, show us love that we first have to somehow convenience them with sex. I can certainly say that I would feel a whole lot more receptive to sex (and would have more energy instead of falling into bed at night) if he ever washed bottles, or did the dishes after dinner, or washed the laundry every now and then. I get it, somebody has to give first, but WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ME?

I really do understand the frustration. She’s absolutely exhausted, she does too much, he does very little, and then she says, “why do I have to be the one to fix the marriage?”

I know many of you reading this blog feel like it’s your husband who needs to change, not you, so I want to give a few thoughts:

My Husband Needs to Change! So why do all the books and blogs talk about me changing? Some thoughts.

1. You Can Only Take Responsibility for What’s in Your Control

Why am I always telling women how to change their behavior and attitudes? Because those behaviors and attitudes are in your control. Your husband’s behaviors and attitudes aren’t.

You may want your husband to change, and you may think he should pick up some slack, and you may think that he should be nicer, but the truth is you have absolutely no control over that. You really don’t.

So we have to look at strategies that YOU can do to make your marriage better. Sitting back and fuming and growing resentful because he isn’t doing anything isn’t going to help. You may feel morally superior, because he obviously has so much he needs to change, but that’s not going to get you a good marriage.

Serenity Prayer Plaque from Dayspring

2. I’m Writing this Blog to Women!

Here’s something else people often don’t understand. This blog is primarily for women. I do have quite a few male readers and I do appreciate them, but I’m writing to women. My books are written to women. So for me to write a big post on how husbands should change doesn’t help. It may make all of us women feel better, but it isn’t going to do a thing to help your marriage, because YOU’RE reading this, not your husband.

Now, a while ago I did go on a rant and wrote a post directed at men: Here’s What I Wish I Could Say to Men about Sex. I felt so much better getting that out! But it was still primarily women who read it.

I know there are areas where men need to change. If you wanted me to go on a rant about it, believe me, I could fill major blog posts, like this:

For pity’s sake, stop playing video games all the time and pay attention to your kids! Don’t expect your wife to make love if you never help with the kids and she’s exhausted. Get off of your butt and clean the house a bit. If your wife leaves you with the kids, you’re not “helping her”. They’re your kids, too! That means they’re your responsibility, too!

Etc. etc. etc.

But again, what good would those posts do, other than make us all feel better and superior? If I’m writing to women, I don’t want to get you all riled up about how your husband needs to change. I want to actually offer practical help, and that means addressing what’s in our control.

3. Chances Are He’s Hurting, Too

Here’s the big one that most of us just don’t get. If you’re unhappy with your life, chances are he is, too. He’s not experiencing that intimacy he needs if you’re unhappy. He may look like it’s all peachy keen, but chances are he’s upset about something, too. And if you can go and think about what he’s missing, and reach out and meet his needs, often you start a domino effect that has great benefits for your marriage.

I know it’s hard to reach out when you’re lonely and frustrated, but if you do that, you really can change the dynamic in your marriage. Things won’t change if you sit there and do nothing. But if you decide to find things to be grateful for, start encouraging him even when you don’t feel like it, and step out when it comes to sex, you may just find that his attitude towards you changes, too.

Sure, it would be nice if it did that on its own. Sure, he should be loving you regardless. But if he’s not, are you going to sit there and just be angry about it? Or are you going to do something about it?

4. If Your Husband Needs to Change, You Likely Need to Set Boundaries

When I’m talking about changing the way that you relate to your husband so that you fix your marriage problems, that doesn’t only mean encouraging him, making love to him, or praising him. These are important things, yes. But sometimes we need to change by simply drawing boundaries and doing less.

Emotionally Healthy WomanIt’s like what Geri Scazzero said in her book The Emotionally Healthy Woman. Sometimes in order to find real peace we have to quit. And many of us are overfunctioning in our marriages, and the more we overfunction, the more he underfunctions.

She tells her own saga of getting to the point where she needed to quit. Her husband was a busy inner-city pastor, and Geri felt like the proper Christian woman poured herself out for her kids, and her husband, and never asked anything of anybody. So she always said yes whenever someone from church needed her. She ran programs. She said yes to having people for dinner. She had no time to herself, no time to be creative, and no time to recharge.

Eventually she couldn’t take it and she told her husband she was quitting going to their church. That put in motion a whole series of steps that finally helped their family come to healthy balance. And much of that was letting go of the things that she was doing so that others would rightly do them. In Boundaries in Marriage Henry Cloud and John Townsend talk about a similar dynamic. They say that God designed this world so that “you reap what you sow”. When you sow something bad, you get something bad. The problem in many marriages, though, is that the person sowing the bad stuff isn’t reaping it. So dad is grumpy and mean to his wife and kids, and the wife and kids walk on eggshells around him so as not to set him off. They’re reaping what he is sowing.

The key, then, is to allow the person who is reaping something to also sow it.

How does this relate? Sometimes, if your husband needs to change, he can’t until you start putting up some boundaries. Look at this woman’s letter for a minute. She’s probably exaggerating a little, but it seems as if she gets about 6 hours of sleep, which isn’t enough. She’s completely haggard. That’s simply too much. It’s unsustainable. Sure, you can keep doing it, but you’ll lose yourself and you’ll burn out, and what kind of mom, let alone wife, will you be?

Perhaps the best thing she could do to change, then, is to start saying “no”. Sit her husband down and say,

“I can’t keep working at a full-time job unless you also start to do some of the childcare responsibilities, like taking them to daycare or making half the meals or doing some of the housework. If that’s not possible for you, then what I’d suggest is that we find ways to reduce our costs so that I can work part-time, because I can’t keep doing this.”

Maybe it means moving back to an apartment, or whatever. I don’t know. But she can start saying, “no”.

When I say that a woman needs to change, then, I’m not always saying that she needs to bend over backwards to meet all of his needs. Here’s what I’m saying:

She should bend over backwards to meet his legitimate needs, and she should examine herself to make sure she’s not trying to meet needs that aren’t hers to meet.

I think quite often we’re meeting the wrong needs. We’re spending tons of energy and time on things that don’t build relationships (getting kids in tons of extracurricular activities, working full-time, volunteering at church, creating a perfect home), and in the process we’re making ourselves exhausted. We’re also spending tons of energy doing things for people that they could and should do for themselves (doing all the housework, making kids’ lunches, etc. etc.) The more we do this, the less energy and time we’ll have to meet our husbands’ legitimate needs for affirmation, encouragement, intimacy, and even sex.

If you’re absolutely exhausted and you’re upset that your husband isn’t equally exhausted, it can look like he’s getting a free ride.

The answer, though, isn’t always for your husband to change. Sometimes it’s for you to start saying no. Saying no to all the things you do. Saying no to overfunctioning at home. Saying no to outside activities. And then you’ll be able to say yes to the things that actually do build marriages!

I hope that makes sense! I know sometimes reading blogs it can seem like the only way to fix a marriage is for the woman to change. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m simply saying: take control of what is in your control. Examine yourself first. Do what you can. Change the dynamic. And then see what happens!

Now, do you have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!

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Comments

  1. I had a comment-er on my blog this week with this same issue! Thank you for your very timely post. I invite you to check out what happened. http://www.leahheffner.com/the-elephant-in-the-room/

  2. Love today’s entry. As a woman who has been married almost 17 years, I hear friends express similar concerns. Immediately, the two things I want to ask are:

    1) Did you ask for help?
    2) Do you micromanage your husband (or kids) when he/they do help?

    One day, I expressed frustration at my husband because I felt like I was doing all of the work. He looked at me pointedly and said, “You need to tell me what you need help with.” Immediately, I think, “I shouldn’t have to ask – you should know.” But, this isn’t always realistic, particularly if we ladies are doing a great job of keeping it together.

    My second point was also brought to light for me by my darling husband: if when they help, we micromanage them, make them feel like they aren’t doing it right, or worse – going after them and redoing it, they aren’t going to want to help.

    I think as women we believe there is only one way of doing things – our way. Truthfully, if we stepped back, we would realize that there are several ways and if we want the help, we have to lose. The grip on our ways and accept the help (and his ways).

    • Very true, Iva. We need to ask and tell our husbands what we need. Very often men are more than willing to give it!

  3. I often tell my readers that the one who realizes there needs to be change is the one responsible for changing first. Usually we don’t get to “talk” to the other spouse, only the one who is looking for improvement, and usually the thing they want to change is really a cycle. One spouse does something and the other reciprocates, but someone needs to start first. And in the end, you cannot make your spouse do anything. The best you can do is change yourself to encourage them to grow. Sometimes this means putting down boundaries, more often this means fixing your own attitude and ditching your pride and sense of entitlement.

    In the example given above, it struck me that she didn’t get it. It’s not a trade of sex = housework, this is about feeling loved. What right does she have to tell her spouse what his love language is? The dynamic should be both spouses giving their all because they love each other and want to show each other in the way that matters to them. But if the one spouse doesn’t, that doesn’t excuse the other, from doing the work, or having a decent attitude about it. In the end, you are both called by God to raise the family. Her response feels like the workers in the vineyard “why does he get what he wants for doing less?” Ultimately, your work is for God, and that should be the focus.

    Now, in that same light, I would hope my wife would kindly talk to me about issues she’s seeing in my life when I’m not working for God in the same light. Not nagging, not berating, not talking to her friends about it or putting me down. Rather a sincerely, “let’s sit down and talk” adult to adult conversation. I understand some couples aren’t yet at the stage where adult conversations can exist, but here are a few tips to get help there.
    Jay Dee – SexWithinMarriage.com recently posted…Why do some wives like their hair pulled?My Profile

  4. Love this post Sheila! I also write a blog for wives and sometimes someone will have a problem, wondering why wives have to do all the changing. I love how you’ve put it here.

    On that last point, creating healthy boundaries, I believe that sometimes we are afraid of stepping back because we don’t want to experience the consequences of getting out of his way and creating space for him to step up. Cos it might mean experiencing some bumps, things not getting done the way we are used to and making sacrifices.

    Sometimes we can be tired of carrying the slack but we still want to retain control and ‘order’, keep some comforts and have everything running the way we are used to – but we have to let go if we want our hubbies to step up where they should. Be ready for bumps, don’t jump back in when it gets hard, be gracious as he learns, appreciate small steps, don’t quit! And continue to pray!
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…Are You Hearing God for Your Marriage?My Profile

    • Great points, Ngina! I think we do want to retain control and have things done “our way”, and often we’re afraid of what will happen if we leave it to him. I was sure like that when my hubby took over homeschooling one day a week! I was meddling constantly, even though I was supposed to be working (he did it so I could write). I finally had to just lock myself in my room and not listen and say, “he loves them. They’re his kids. He can do this, too.” It’s hard to give up that control!

    • It’s funny, the wives always wonder why the wives have to do all the changing when it comes to housework, raising the kids, etc., because they feel that the husband doesn’t really care about the family or the house, they think the husband just wants sex. The husbands always wonder why they have to do all the work when it comes to the intimate relationship stuff, because they feel the wives don’t really care about them or their marriage, they think the wife want their financial support.

      These are marriages where the spouse are either at war against each other, or they are playing a trading game always trying to come out on top.

      Marriage was never designed to be this way. Both should be giving their all, and both should be accepting what the other is giving in the spirit it was given. When that happens, usually you find both spouses start growing and start meeting each other’s desires in the marriage in terms of support, and then they get this marriage that is the two of them fighting together instead of against each other, and that’s an amazing place to be. I’ve been in both types of marriages with the same wife, and they are so radically different that I hate having to use the same name (marriage) for both.
      Jay Dee – SexWithinMarriage.com recently posted…Why do some wives like their hair pulled?My Profile

      • Jay Dee, this reminds me that back when we were still dating, some of our friends who mentored us *realllllly* emphasized the aspect of “you guys are a TEAM.” And my husband especially really took it to heart and kept reminding me of it. That mindset, us being a team, or as you put it, the two of us fighting together, is incredibly helpful in the times I feel overwhelmed or resentful for bearing “too much” of the burden. Or at times when we both feel defensive and like fighting one-another. I very much second what you say here.

      • That’s a good point Jay Dee, often as wives we can have laser focus on things he’s not doing and be bleary eyed when it comes to thing we ought to be doing and aren’t doing – we struggle to walk a mile in hubby’s shoes.
        And so true marriage is really about giving 101% of ourselves, that’s the healthiest dynamic.
        Ngina Otiende recently posted…Are You Hearing God for Your Marriage?My Profile

  5. Heather Costomiris says:

    One thing I really struggle with is, that I have done all this. I at least feel like I have spent the last 10 years changing everything my husband has ever said I did or didn’t do that bothered him. The kids are now in full time school and I am able to get everything I need to get done around the house done during the day, minus folding one basket of laundry, which gets folded the next day. I am ready and available for him, and initiate sex as well. I still feel like, most days he doesn’t know I am even in the house. We have two sofas in our living room, I used to sit next to him, but he stretches out and takes up 2/3 of the sofa, and then gets annoyed when my blanket touches him. I moved our ottoman over so I could put my feet up at the end of the day (Dr.’s orders by the way, I have a swollen foot, its been that way for 3 years) he gets annoyed because the ottoman was in his way when he wanted to get up. So I finally just moved to the other sofa. He can be very hypocritical, and jumps down my throat if I even have a bad moment, or even a distracted moment, but its perfectly alright to take his frustrations out on me. I spend all day with the kids and am frustrated at the end of the day, he gets mad at me. He spends 20 min with them and gets frustrated with them. But I can’t say anything, because whenever I do he gets so defensive and figures out a way to turn everything in his mind into my problem, or my fault. Example, I told him it bothered me that he spends our entire evening on the IPad. His response, well you look at yours as well, so I could say the same thing to you. Yes, It is probably in reach from earlier in the day, but I say, OK, I won’t touch it. I keep mine on my desk now, far away from us in the evening. He still has his in front of his face, all night. I say something about it, and once again he just gets defensive, and finds something else that he can blame on me. He doesn’t even listen to me when I want to just talk about our days at the end of the day, let alone when it is something big. I have tried and tried to change everything I can about me, but at this point I don’t know what else I can change. The things he comes up with now are just plain silly, that last load of laundry didn’t get folded, things like that. I am beyond frustrated, but can’t say anything because it just makes things worse!

    • Heather, that’s a really, really hard place to be in. It sounds like the root of the problem, though, is that you’re just not sharing a life–as is evidenced by the couch issue! Is there a way that you can talk to him about finding fun things to do together as a couple? Maybe playing games, or going for a walk every night, or reading something out loud together? I don’t know, it could be anything. But I find that couples start going downhill when there’s no friendship left, and maybe working on the friendship would help some of these other things.

      But the truth is that some people just have really lonely marriages. I know that’s super hard, but some people just walk through life and they feel alone, and that’s when you have to really throw yourself on God. I’ve also seen marriages like this really change for the better about a decade later, so it may not always be like this.

      Prayers for you!

      • Thanks.

        I agree that part of the problem is that we don’t have the same friendship that we used to. I just don’t know how to get back there at this point. He travels usually at least one week a month, although there are months that it is more, like this month, this is the only full week he is home. And when he is home his office is in NYC, but we live in South Jersey, so he is out of the house most of the day. He leaves early and gets home late. I schedule date nights when he is home, but he spends much of dinner checking his phone every time it buzzes, which gets frustrating. At this point all I can think to do is pray about it.

        I also have started doing more with our Women’s ministry at church now that the kids are both in school full time.

    • Heather,
      I am soooo familiar with that “deflecting” behavior— my husband was a master at turning everything back on me just as you described. With my husband, I now know that it was a by-product of him growing up in a dysfunctional home. It was his defense mechanism… low self-esteem and knowing that he was a “damaged, worthless, piece of c***” (his words, not mine) would cause him to want to make me the problem so that he didn’t have to face the reality that he was part of the problem. Let me tell you, it was CRAZY making as I’m sure you are well aware. I would look back at the whole ugly scene (lots of emotion) and think “How the h*** did he manage to do that?” I dealt with it by always agreeing with him (the sky is green? of course it is dear) and walking on egg shells as to not give way for one of his rants. Obviously NOT healthy for me. But I truly believed that if I could just love my husband enough, be a perfect wife, etc, etc, that I could “fix” him. I did every internet “love your husband” challenge out there. I did “30 days of prayer” “72 hour sex challenge” “30 days of respect, honor, love”… yada yada , you name it! And yes, I learned how to pray, respect, honor and love my husband, but it didn’t fix the problem.
      In my husband’s case, the other by-product of his upbringing is that he is an alcoholic. The “deflecting” behavior is also common alcoholic behavior (not drunk behavior but just general behavior whether they are drinking or not) Now, I’m not at all suggesting that your husband is an alcoholic, but it is part of my husband story so I include it. When my husband finally was able to admit that he was an alcoholic and started going to AA and worked the 12 steps, he was able to stop that deflective behavior. It still creeps in occasionally, but he catches it and stops. He now freely admits how he used to make everything my fault so that he didn’t have to look at his own pain.
      So, that is my story in a very condensed form. I don’t know if anything resonates with you or not, but if it does, I hope it encourages you in some way.

      • I am curious happywife why you say that all you did to win your husband did not fix the problem, but did it not work, as he appears to have changed significantly? There may be more to the story that is missing.

        I am the husband of a wife that was difficult for years, but I kept loving her and she is now the best wife ever. The proof of what works often takes many years, so I wonder if God has not rewarded your efforts and behavior which has indeed won your dysfunctional man? Or did you set boundaries and force him into rehab, etc?

        The book on helping a spouse change when they are dysfunctional will be different than working with your ordinary husband or wife, but one can always stand on good ground taking the high road of love. I admire your efforts and love for your husband. No matter how hard you kept trying, perhaps you were doing it not just to win your man, but to please the Lord.This world is not for our pleasures by to make us more like Him. You can be used by Him so much more now that you have been tried, tested and proven worthy for His service.

        • Ken~ Thanks for the words of encouragement and affirmation. Yes, you’re right… there is so much more to the story but I didn’t want to ramble on in my comments. I think in summary, my choice to learn to love and respect my husband in his dysfunction got me out of the way so that God could work. And like you experienced, it was a painfully slow but powerful process. So yes, in the end, all that I did contributed to his being “fixed” but I wasn’t the “fixer”.. God was. As you put it…” so I wonder if God has not rewarded your efforts and behavior which has indeed won your dysfunctional man?” Yes, I firmly believer that! And that is exactly what we are called to do as Christian wives in I Peter 3:1. God did reward me for my efforts (however imperfect they were!)

          You asked if I set boundaries and force him into rehab. No. I did insist several years ago that he see a therapist, which he did. I later insisted (and made the appointment) that he see a medical doctor to inquire about antidepressants, which he did as well. When it became clear to me that he was indeed an alcoholic, I asked God, “What do I do about this?” God’s response to me was, “Love him unconditionally.” For the next year and a half I did just that. I also did a lot of crying, yelling, begging, threatening, pleading, praying, bargaining with God.. but always came back to asking God to empower me to do what He called me to do.. love my husband. It was quite the journey! He finally hit his bottom and ended up in the psych ward. He got sober.. then he relapsed… hit another bottom and has been sober ever since… interestingly, his final day of drinking was the day that I finally surrendered every last fear and worry to God and told God that I was willing to walk whatever path He was going to allow. (I had previously held on to a couple of “conditions” with God)

          You say “The book on helping a spouse change when they are dysfunctional will be different than working with your ordinary husband or wife, but one can always stand on good ground taking the high road of love.” I firmly believe this. Sheila, this is what frustrates me at times with your advice. It is usually so right on and wise ASSUMING A RELATIVELY HEALTHY HUSBAND. But when you add dysfunction to the mix, you really are walking a different road and often need to approach things quite differently. I know you can’t write to all variables in a situation, but honestly, with so many of the reader questions you get I see dysfunction written all over them and I know from experience that the “normal” way of dealing with it isn’t going to get that wife anywhere. For that wife, the loving approach could very well be to “let go and let God” It isn’t being enabling to admit that you have no control over a situation and turning it to God, committing to pray and obey. It’s admitting that you aren’t equipped to “treat his dysfunction” and waiting on God’s perfect timing. Sorry for the rant.. that’s not my intention but wives of dysfunctional husbands need to be assured that it’s not them just being a weak or bad wife. She can do all the “right” things and not see the progress that she would assume with a healthy husband.

          … I’ll shut up now :-)

          • Interesting happywife… It sounds like you played out the role God had for you and that is all you can do. Living with an alcoholic must be a nightmare, and all one can think of at that time is that “he is my nightmare until God shows me differently.”

            I think where Sheila seems to be getting hit from both sides on this issue. On the one side many in her audience are very much Christian, but really still working in a fleshly way, using what modern psychology and church marriage psychology teaches. Her purpose may not be to be strictly Biblical but to use outside marriage books, many targeting Christians, to teach how to “manage” a marriage in a smart, respectful and loving way, but using fleshly means.

            By fleshly means, I mean man’s ways, and man’s ways are often filled with wisdom, they simply do not go as far, or as deep, or get to the heart of the issues as God’s ways do.

            The concept of “winning your husband without a word” is completely a God thing. Few in Christian psychology would ever teach such a thing for winning a normal husband, let alone a dysfunctional one. Instead they would teach boundaries, and other methods to box your man into reaping some of what he is sowing so that he can perhaps see the errors of his ways and change, or be forced into rehab, or taken to the elders where he really gets it.

            Remember, although walking in the Spirit is the Christian ideal, we still live in the flesh, so I tend to go easy on those who want a sensible fleshly approach to solving their marital woes, because they do not yet understand who they are in Christ and the power that He has to move a husband or wife to where God wants the marriage to be.

            With very few exceptions, my wife and I have found that the only time that a strong believer cannot win their spouse is when chemicals are involved; drugs, alcohol or bipolar, etc. and then the spouse is not really acting or thinking like their spouse. In those cases perhaps some sort of intervention is necessary for their own sake. So long as it is done in love, and hopefully with wise counsel, I do not have an issue with boundaries, per se.

            But outside of dysfunction, the Word of God should be universally held to and a husband cannot be given boundaries by a wife. BUT there is a fine line between suggesting boundaries and giving boundaries. Many husbands will be reasonable, and one can talk them into setting their own boundaries by asking questions, and not be making statements.

            But back to you, if what you are describing is true, you are to be congratulated for doing things God’s ways even in the darkest hours, knowing that your trust is not in your husband, but the mighty work of the Spirit who lives in and through you. You may have been the only Jesus your husband saw during his dark days, and regardless, you will stand before your Maker some day and all we really want is the words, “Well done…” Marriage is not just for our pleasures or comforts here on earth but it is through the pain that we grow like Christ.

            And we did do the choosing of our spouse, so there is a strong likelihood that God intends to use us to show his love and saving grace to the one we claimed we would love “forever do us part.”

          • Ken, I just want to be clear that I was not talking about setting boundaries for the husband; I was talking about setting boundaries for YOURSELF. That is a biblical concept; and Cloud and Townsend spend the majority of all their books setting out, in detailed fashion, the biblical backing for it.

            Thanks!

          • happywife says:

            Ken~ Again, many thanks for your encouraging words. I want to make it clear to anyone reading, that I didn’t just pull 1 Peter 3:1 up from day one and declare that I would be a saintly silent wife through this ordeal. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure I ever associated that verse with my situation until this conversation. I asked God often (probably daily) what I should do, as well as demand that God himself do something pronto ;-) but time after time, He would direct me to scriptures that seemed to say “Wait. I am working. Trust me. I am your hope” My all time favorite scripture He gave me at one point was Isaiah 54:4-7. If He had at any time given me a scripture that even hinted at seeking a rehab center, I wouldn’t have wasted any time. Trust me :-) I was waiting for an action plan, but God never revealed it to me.
            I guess mostly what I want to convey is that I did not walk this road perfectly, not even moderately well on many days, but I walked it with God and trusted Him to show me the way. It was truly a day by day, lots of mistakes made, journey.
            Also, as far as boundaries, I think we absolutely need to set boundaries for ourselves. Boundaries are our way of taking care of ourselves in a tough situation, not a way of of controlling our spouse. Big difference.

  6. This is great advice, and very practical. You’re so right – sometimes we have to decide what things are in our control and work on those things. The other alternative is to “stew” about it and become more and more angry, and that hurts everyone in the family. And I completely agree that some women are expending a great deal of their time and energy on things they don’t really have to do. I sometimes hear women say, “If I don’t do it, no one will.” Well, if it’s washing the baby’s bottles, then you have to step up and do it. But if it’s working as the homeroom mom, coordinating the scouts’ popcorn sale, or taking the kids to their 4th activity of the week, then maybe there’s a reason no one else is willing to do it – it may not be worth the energy and time it takes to get it done.
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  7. From a husband’s perspective, I think this is valuable advice. If the goal is a more satisfying union, the process has to be focused on activities that foster the union rather than the simple goal of “how do I get him to do his fair share of all the work that I am currently doing”. Perhaps it is not vitally necessary for the wife to do all of the things that she is doing. My wife and I need a shared vision on what the most important tasks are in our lives and if/when she tells me that she no longer wants to do certain things that prompts valuable discussion. Often, my response is “I think that’s a great idea. I agree that you are doing too much and this does not need to be done”. Sometimes that will also prompt me to volunteer to do some of the things that she is doing and sometimes I don’t. The point is that the “no” focuses a discussion on *priorities* which is where the communication needs to start in my opinion.

    • Thanks, Roger! I think a lot of men are honestly feeling that their wives are too busy–but it’s hard to get them to start doing less. More couples do need to get a shared vision. I have an exercise that people can work through right here that can aid in that.

  8. So agree with you. My husband does pitch in – a lot, but it wasn’t until our marriage was in ruins and I stopped everything – when a marriage counsellor pointed out how imbalanced things were and told me I had to stop for my own emotional health, that he stepped up.
    He struggles with needing outside affirmation, but he took mine for granted and sought it thru work, church, etc. He couldn’t see that because I was enabling him!
    Now, my house is often cluttered, there’s always dishes on the counter and laundry on the floor, the kids make their own lunches, etc. but our marriage is healthier than it’s ever been.

    • I’m so glad you shared, Lisa! That’s exactly what I mean! Sometimes our energies are really focused in the wrong place and we need to draw some firm lines to reclaim what we should have in our relationship. Glad everything is going well for you!

  9. I know this is not going to be a popular thought, but honestly, we are reaping what we sowed as women. Yes, some of it is not our fault. Many of our husbands were never taught how to be real men who lead a family and protect a family, but honestly how many of us are in submission to our husbands and are running our marriages and families. The feminist movement also made it necessary for many of us to work so we as women are all overwhelmed because we want to have it all. Let’s all be honest and admit we’re getting what we asked for as rebelled against God’s plan for our lives, families and marriages.

    The way to fix this is to let our husbands be true husbands and true men. That means we have to step back and be true godly wives that follow their leadership. In my opinion, boundaries is exactly the wrong thing we need to do. We don’t need more control we need way less of it as wives. Respect for our husbands is a foreign language to most modern women and their are going to a transition period as he learns to be a godly husband and we learn to be godly wives. This can take months and most likely years because we are so far from godly marriages these days.

    Take a quiz, and find out if you are in control and if you really want what you think you want:
    1. If your husband told you to quit your job tomorrow would you?
    2. If your husband told you to quit volunteering at church, school,etc, would you?
    3. If your husband told you to stop spending so much time with your girlfriends or on facebook, would you?

    I’m sorry, this post makes it sound like husbands are supposed to be our help mate, when we were created to be his. If you want a real man, be prepared to be a real woman and follow his lead. In other words be careful what you ask for! Change, for your man might mean putting his head in the Bible and finding out exactly what a real man is. That is not something many modern christian women are prepared to deal with!

    • Hey there Allison! I totally agree with you about the feminist movement, etc….however, I don’t think “boundaries” per se is a negative or controlling thing. I think it means learning our limits as wives. I am a perfect example if this actually. I stay at home, support my husband in all the masculine role and am excited we are expecting our 5th child (my oldest IS 5!). I’ve read “fascinating womanhood” and agree with most of it and I bend over backwards trying to be the total woman. Yet, burn out is always around the corner. That is a heck of a lot of work for me! My life at home makes any outside full-time job look like child play.
      A man DOES have to help in certain areas…..I have a friend with many children whose husband is a very proud counselor (mostly of families) and he comes home and doesn’t change one diaper or lift one finger because of the “man’s role’…I believe there is a healthy balance. Where I am in these early years, my hubby HAS to help and we can’t afford in home help….we are a team but he is the head. There are times when men just have to step up more and times when the woman is filling in for more. Yes, always the husband must be the head of the family, but common sense must be there.

      • Steph,
        I disagree on boundaries. Boundaries are a way for us to create a box around us that says I will submit when the request is in this box but I will not when it is outside this box. There should be a box, but sin should be the thing on the outside of the box & only sin. In other words, boundaries in the way they are being presented is a way to say, “I will submit if I feel you are loving me as Christ loves the church.” But God does not call us to submit when we feel like it or when we are in agreement only. Boundaries is a way to get around the radical life Jesus has called us to live.

        We need to be honest with our selves, Christ would be difficult to live with. He would ask a lot from us. Yes He would give even more but how many times a day do we wonder about God’s love, protection and provision in our lives. Things like worry, anger, and frustration stem from these. And He’s perfect! Our emotions and feelings don’t line up with God’s a great deal, and He’s perfect! If we are only submitting when our emotions are in line it’s not really submitting and can have as just as bad of results as women controlling marriage.

        God gives us instructions in order how to live before our husbands in this situation and it did not say create boundaries. In fact, if you read the New Testament, the idea of boundaries is the opposite of what Christ asked of us.

        Boundaries is replacing God’s way with man’s way.

        • So Allison, you’re saying then that if your husband wants you to work full-time and is not taking care of the family at all and you literally are working from 5 in the morning until midnight, you should do that with no complaint? Even if it’s wearing you out and you burn out?

          Christ does not ask us to burn ourselves out or wear ourselves into the ground. That is not treating our bodies well, nor is it treating others well.

          If we are allowing others to treat us with disrespect, then we are also allowing others to grow LESS Christlike, not MORE Christlike. If you do everything for your family but do not require that they do what is theirs to do, then we are not helping our families; we are ultimately hurting them.

          God wants us to look more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). When we act in such a way that our husbands look less and less like Jesus, and that our kids look less and less like Jesus, and we enable all kinds of unhelpful behaviour, we are not creating a healthy family.

          Yes, we are to respect our husbands, but we also are not to pour ourselves out so that others have an excuse to not act in a Christlike manner. Remember, in Galatians it says, “each should carry his own load.” If you are carrying others’ loads, then you are not doing them a favour. And you are also wearing yourself out so much that you can’t be there to pick up the slack when someone legitimately needs you.

          • Sheila,
            Scripture gave us a specific formula, it addressed this exact issue, how to win our husbands and it says exactly contrary to this. I have no problem with saying this is how we go about practically living out scripture, but the Bible gives us the exact scenario and this does the opposite of what it says.

            I agree that this woman is doing too much. I do agree that this woman needs to take her concerns to her husband and say, “I am really tired. Is there a way that you’d be willing to take more responsiblity at home or work (work more hours) so that I can work less? I really want to be the woman God is asking me to be and I want to follow your lead, but I’m so extremely exhausted. How can we fix that?”

            Yes that involves prayer. But it also involves dealing with the consequences of that conversation. Many of our husbands are “buying into” things, because it is not their vision of where the family needs to be going. If you want a man to be passionate about serving and loving you, then let him grow into the place where He is mature enough to cast the vision for the family and follow Him.

            Yes, our husbands need to grow and change and become more Christ like but we are called to prayer, to submit and live such a life that they want to change for us and for Christ.

            For each scripture you quote Sheila, I can quote several more that say we are to forgive seven times seven, that we are to give the shirt off our back, that we are become the least of these, that we are to give our life so that we may find it.

            I want to be clear. God gave us a precise formula to follow for “changing” our husbands, and boundaries was not it. I also want to clear, godly men would be tough for the modern woman to live with! Be careful what you ask for! He may end telling you you are packing up for South America or the Middle East. He might give a lot of money to the poor! He might require the TV & internet be turned off-yikes! He might tell you he’d prefer you get rid of all the romance novels. He might even tell you the kids are coming out of public school and you need to homeschool them! In other words, be careful what you ask for. David, Peter, Paul…not easy men to be married to and yet the exact examples God gives us of godly men.

          • Actually, Allison, boundaries are VERY biblical. Jesus had boundaries–He left places when He felt it was time, even when people needed Him. Paul had boundaries. At times he allowed himself to be poured out and abused, and at other times he stood up for his rights. The difference, in every case, was what was the right thing to do to point people to God? Sometimes we say nothing and pray, and sometimes we stand up. If you only ever pour yourself out, and never, ever stand up for what is right or godly, then you’re going to sow a harvest of great tears.

        • Sheila,
          Jesus and Paul (and Peter) were marytered! And it was because they chose to follow scripture and the Lord. The obviously did not believe terribly in boundaries! They did not leave a place because they were standing up for their rights. They left a place because God had other work for them to do in another place and they were trying to be obedient to Him. Jesus left heaven to become a helpless baby, to live a workman’s life and then travel, have people bug Him all day and ask of Him relentlessly, only for them to turn on Him and crucify Him (but only after beating Him).

          I can point to scripture that says this is how God wants me to win my husband. He gives very specific instructions on it. I would love to see the scripture that trumps that. I need to obey the Bible, and as much as I like you, not Sheila Gregoire. So I would need to see scripture that says I can do an end run around submitting to my husband and standing up for my “rights” and putting boundaries in place. My faith is in God, not myself. In His promises and not in my ways. Do you have scripture that speaks to boundaries that make an end run around what He has asked of me?

          I think Susie below put it perfectly!

          • Okay, this is my last comment on this thread because I really need to make dinner! :)

            Just a few examples:

            Jesus told us to “shake the dust off of our feet” and move on if people reject us. We aren’t to pour ourselves out for people who are against the gospel. He said not to throw our pearls before swine. He left a place when there were still more people to be healed because it was God’s time to do the next thing. He made a whip out of cords and drove the money changers from the temple.

            Paul appealed to Caesar when he felt the gospel was at stake. He stood up to Peter, even though Peter was in authority over him, when he felt that Peter was ignoring the gospel and ignoring Gentiles for the sake of placating the Jews.

            When the gospel is at stake, you set boundaries. That’s what our Lord did, and that’s what His followers did. And Sapphira, by the way, got rebuked for NOT setting boundaries with her husband.

          • “Be careful what you ask for! He may end telling you you are packing up for South America or the Middle East.” Did you know that most mission boards will not send a couple onto the mission field unless both husband and wife feel called by God and led to go there? Your belief that the Bible requires a very one-sided husband announces-wife obeys approach is simply that – your belief. Many other devout Christians read and understand those verses in a very different way. I think we all (and I certainly include myself in this) need to be careful how we present our beliefs – sometimes the things we are certain are absolutes may in fact not be absolutes at all. For example, many devout Christians believed for many years that the Bible permitted them to own slaves, or forbid them to marry people of a different race, or encouraged them to conquer other people or nations “in the name of Christ.” Now we are quite certain that the Bible doesn’t teach any of those things.

        • I think you may lack balance in your opinion, Allison. Perhaps you are attributing certain aspects of relationship, such as discussion to boundary setting, which you believe to be man’s way, and therefore contrary to God’s way. You come across as legalistic, and lacking in grace, which I imagine is not at all how you are or how you would like to come off.

          • (Sheila speaking)

            This comment has been removed because I really don’t think it helps the conversation, and can easily turn people who are on this blog who are just exploring Christianity off of Christianity. I just think this whole argument has gone on, and the points have been made well by both sides, and it’s time to stop.

            I don’t think asking each other if they’re true Christians is really edifying. I believe that all who have participated in this debate truly love Christ, and claim Him as their Saviour. They just see the role of women differently.

            And since the role of women was a side issue to this post, and not the main one I tried to make, I’m going to cut off conversation in this realm. I don’t think it’s helpful for those who are coming to this post really desperate in their marriages; I think it can just make them feel more alone, and the points that are important have already been made.

        • Allison, when I look at boundaries I don’t envision drawing lines in the sand and saying “I won’t do a b c until you do e f g.” Its more of “this is who I am, this is the best I can do, I”m sorry if you want more from me but I can’t do that at this time”, and we find a compromise. I have learned the hard way that you must truly take care of yourself as a wife/woman or you really will not have anything left to give out. We have to tell our husbands honestly when things are too hard, or we physically can’t go on, etc….Or we don’t give him the chance to be the loving husband God wants him to be. You cannot give what you do not have. Not sure if I’m being very clear. We must honor our husbands and yet we must respect ourselves and I believe men are much more attracted to a woman when she knows what she is about, has self-respect, is humble about her limitations….than wearing herself out to be “the perfect woman”. Does that make sense? I could be just making this while thing seem more complicated.

          • There is a difference between being honest with our husbands and saying “I’m spent, I have no more to give” and saying “I’m tired, this is what will happen.” The latter is the wife taking the role of headship, when that is clearly as God commanded, the husband’s role.

            I think that is what Allison is saying. It’s not the wife’s place to set the boundaries. She can honestly communicate with her husband and say “I respect you, I love you, I’m tired?” (w/o belittling him – because he’s probably tired too). BUT the thing is, we have to be willing to live within that as well. Are we willing to make any sacrifices the husband might ask? Hypothetically (not knowing this situation – please don’t think these are aimed at this reader, but rather these are based on the conversations I have with my IRL friends) Are we willing to give up monthly book club night? Are we willing to give up Starbuck’s to work part time? Are we willing to drive an older car with no car payment so she can work part time? Or even more extreme, are we willing to have only one vehicle to save money? Are we willing to give up internet or phone time? If we want to ask things from our husbands, we must be willing to give up things ourselves.

            Going back to Jesus and Paul setting boundaries, they did NOT set boundaries for THEMSELVES, they withdrew to pray, when their ministry was no longer effective in that situation, or when God called them somewhere else. They did not set boundaries because they were tired. I just can’t imagine Jesus telling the disciples “not right now guys, I need some *me* time”. What did Jesus do when crowds followed him? Matthew 14:14, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. He gave MORE of himself, not less. Furthermore, what was Jesus doing when he retreated to solitude? Luke 5:16 says “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” In Matthew 14:23 after Jesus dismissed the crowd, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Is that what we’re doing when we request solitude and “me” time? Are we being honest with ourselves as wives? How much have we prayed for our husbands in this situation? How much have we prayed for our finances? How much are we willing to sacrifice?

            This whole concept that we should be able to live life and not be tired is something I just don’t understand. I think the women who lived on the prairies went to bed tired to the bone. I think women in Jesus time went to bed tired to the bone. It’s only been the last, what, century (except for the wealthy throughout history) that common man has had this notion that life should be easy, and not hard work. We live in a fallen world, we have a sinful nature. There will always be work required. Sometimes we can control how much is required of us (by consciously choosing what extra activities we add into our lives), but there will still always be work required! No one gets to make it through this life without being tired.

            Yes, we can have conversation with our husbands, and respectfully ask for them to pray with you and see if there are changes that can be made. But it’s not Biblical to [i]tell[/i] our husbands they will do x,y,z. It’s not the wife’s place to be the boundary maker for the husband.

          • Here’s what I’m saying about boundaries, Susie: When we don’t set boundaries, and do things that others should be doing, and allow them to treat us with disrespect, we cause those people to look less like Christ. It becomes a moral issue. It is not only about us being tired; it is about us raising kids who think the world revolves around them. It is about us treating husbands in such a way that they don’t have to respect others or us. It is about us not setting a good example of what a Christian life should look like.

            If you stand by and do nothing when your husband belittles you or the children; when he uses porn; when he sits back and does nothing to raise the children; then you are contributing to a situation where you are helping him to live in an unChristlike manner.

            Jesus does not ask us to allow ourselves to be mistreated UNLESS it is for a bigger purpose–the gospel. EVERYTHING always comes down to the gospel. Are you modelling Christ at home–and helping others to be Christlike? Or are you enabling them to lead decadent, lazy lives?

            I think many women are doing the latter, thinking that in so doing they are properly serving their families. We need to work hard, yes, but work hard FOR A PURPOSE, not just because our husbands would rather do nothing. It has to be about BOTH of us looking more Christlike. How is Christ glorified if a woman is worked to the bone while a husband plays video games for six hours at night? That is not what Jesus asks us to do. Sometimes we need to say, “I will do this, but I will not do more.” This isn’t setting boundaries on our husband; it’s setting boundaries on ourselves. You’re right–we can’t set boundaries for anyone else, and it isn’t our place. But we can put limits on what we will do. That’s healthy, and that helps others similarly develop responsible lives. And often, when we start to set boundaries, we’ll see others begin to look more Christlike, too.

            Yes, as wives, we also need to be ready to respond if our husbands think that we need to work part-time rather than full-time, or pull out of certain activities, etc. Absolutely, and I’ve written about that before.

            All I’m saying here is that sometimes we women need to learn to say “no”–No, I can’t keep doing everything for everybody and allowing my family members to be irresponsible. No, I can’t keep doing everything for everybody at church, and in so doing prevent others from serving. No, I can’t keep wearing myself to the bone and not getting any sleep. These are healthy choices, and they help those around us, too–including our husbands.

            I hope that’s clear–the books say it better (obviously, they’re books!) and I have more about this in the second edition of To Love, Honor and Vacuum that’s coming out. But I think too often we women think that doing EVERYTHING for our families is the Christian way to serve, when really the Christian way is to take a step back and say, “how can I encourage those in my family to look more and more like Christ, just as I look more and more like Christ?” It’s not about who does all the laundry; it’s about how do we do this thing called family so that everybody is learning to respect each other and treat each other well and live responsibly.

  10. Wow! Great post! Thanks Sheila!! Really needed this – I think I do too much in a lot of areas and I think some men just don’t function to their potential because we take away the challenge!! YES, I need to take your advice and go with it! I am actually reading “The Mom Factor” by Cloud and Townsend right now…I’m going to buy boundaries in marriage because I think that after 7 years of marriage, its boundaries that are my real problem. A woman can easily do “too much”! Thanks again!!!!

  11. I’m also glad you shared this. I know in my marriage, I became happier when I surrendered all to God. I gave up trying to make my husband love me more, help out more, etc. I gave to God all unmet expectations. I still am learning this and it’s a daily prayer for me. It has restored my joy and happiness and I believe that and prayer has softened my husband. I’m sharing this on my FB wall. https://www.facebook.com/PressingIn
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  12. Most of the things that I see my friends doing that is so time consuming and has them running in a thousand different ways, leaving them in the situation of “I go to bed at midnight and get up at 5″ are things that are not asked of them by their husbands. Most of them are doing things they want to do, volunteer at the schools, etc. Many of these friends of mine are SAHMs. And if we’re honest, they’re husbands have asked they say “no” and not doing these things. What have these ladies done? They disregard the wisdom of their husbands and continue to do these things, then whine and complain that their husbands aren’t “more help” around the house. Well, their husbands provided an option of help (say no and don’t do 75,000 things, but they completely disrespected their husband!!)

    The other thing I’d question to those who say they work so hard and have nothing left for their husband because their husband doesn’t help, is are YOU appreciative and thankful for your husband? Do you regularly encourage him and build his confidence? Or do you nag him endlessly that “he doesn’t make enough money…doesn’t work hard enough…” etc. I can speak from experience that it does nothing to help. I used to always nag my husband that “there wasn’t enough money – I have to work because you don’t make enough” blah blah. Well, all that did was make him feel about an inch tall and leave him less desiring to succeed. I changed my attitude, quit nagging and it was AMAZING at how his work performance changed and what happened with his job.

    Lastly, I have some friends who complain ceaselessly about having to work. Yet, one of them was given a chance to not work, and you know what her response was? No, I like working. I like being in control, it would bore me to tears to stay home and *just* take care of my family (when did it become *just* as if it’s a despicable thing to take care of our family?).

    Bottom line, you can’t can’t change your husband. But you can change you. You can seek to be HIS helpmate rather than him being yours. You can encourage him, build him up, respect him, submit (dare I say that – Colossians 3:19). Yeah, I go to bed dog tired nearly every night. I know though, that the efforts I devote to my husband reaps rewards much greater than the sacrifice I make. If I’m being honest, I know my husband is dog tired too. I don’t complain about being tired, I know he’s just as tired. And yet, I still seek to serve him. If for no other reason that Jesus tells me that I should die to myself and put others needs ahead of mine. In doing so, I am serving God first and foremost.

    And, I’m sorry, but if you’re going from 5 am to midnight, you need to make some changes. Say no to the extra-curricular. It’s not good for your own health, nor your children’s to be running like crazy. Our society (even the church) has priorities so messed up. If you are doing things that you simply cannot skip, then you need to find solutions and systems to make things more efficient. How much time are you spending on the internet? Do the kids contribute to the household? Do they put away their own laundry and clean up after themselves? If not, you’re not doing anyone any favors. If you’re not home for 40% of your life (work, commuting, church), then you should not be needing to spend 6 hours a day cleaning.

    • Very well put, Susie! And I completely agree about kids helping around the house, too. In this case I’m not sure it applies, because it sounds like her kids are likely too young to do laundry, but we can make them tidy more.

    • This comment is pure gold. Agree 100%

    • This comment is exactly what I needed to read RIGHT NOW. Thank you! Also, thank you Sheila for the issues you tackle in such a thoughtful and caring way.

  13. I’m leading a women’s group through the book, Break Through and it deals with this very things, Sheila. I love what you have to say about it because it truly can be so confusing and frustrating to overfunctioning wives. I especially loved this, “The problem in many marriages, though, is that the person sowing the bad stuff isn’t reaping it.” So true and often has gone unsaid. Thanks for saying it here, my friend, and I’m so honored to have you linking up with me over at my place (Messy Marriage) for Wedded Wed!

  14. That email makes me cringe. Honestly if she is the perfect housewife and her husbands does NOTHING as she suggest then she may have chosen badly when it comes to marriage partners. Sometimes the answer is that you picked a dud…now saddle up that pony and ride it.

    Nevertheless I think that women have the power to change their marriages completely by making a few changes in themselves. You have the power to mold your marriage and your man like putty in your hands. So why on earth would you resent that power?? Because it means you are working harder than he is?? Sounds like selfish whining to me.

    I am cranky, sarcastic, and quick to anger by nature. But when I really try to be sweet, patient, and loving in all my gestures and go out of my way to surprise my husband with my optimism and generosity I get rewarded in the end. I get rewarded with a husband who helps a bit more around the house, fixes a thing or two on my honey-do list, buys me a surprise gift, gives me a back rub out of the blue, etc. I had to work for that but it is worth it.
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  15. I have definitely felt the emotions and frustrations expressed by the letter writer. Now that my kids are almost grown, I look back at those times and wonder why I felt so guilty for not managing all that stuff better.

    I have been trying to focus on improving our relationship lately and although he says he’s willing, he seems to be using it to unload lists of ways I have been at fault. I don’t know if I should just let him get it all out in hopes that he will then be ready to move on. I ended up asking him for one or two concrete things I could do that would improve our marriage and it was hard for him to get to something that I could easily say, “yes, I did this” or “I failed to do that”. In the end he chose to request that I put away the laundry immediately, rather than piling it on the bed, so that he could lay down whenever he wanted. Weird choice after his rant about me being disrespectful, hypocritical and argumentative. I am trying to show him love in a way that he appreciates it, but it is very hard when I feel pinned to the wall with his criticism.

    The book, by the way, is Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by Dr. John Gottman. Although it is not a Christian book, I find it very helpful to have a book that says, “I’ve found that successful couples do this, not that” without any overlay of religious guilt. I feel like I’ve put way too much of that on myself already.

    • I love John Gottman! His research is amazing, and I think it totally backs up Christian principles (because truth is truth). He’s done the world a great service in studying marriage the way he has.

      I understand that you’re really having a difficult time, Meredith. I don’t know why so many people feel it necessary to criticize. But I think that when things enter this kind of downward spiral, the best thing to do is take a step back and say, “instead of trying to fix a PROBLEM, let’s figure out what we do WELL together.” Like, what can you do where you can laugh together? What can you do to have fun together? If we do more of that, we often find that the problems fix themselves.

      I hope your relationship still has some positive things and not just negative things.

  16. I have said this before and I’ll say it again. If the husband is truly trying to live out Eph 5:25-33 and to love his wife as Christ loves His church most of the problems mentioned here would disappear. Since I have started living out these verses our marriage has blossomed and it was good before. I appreciate her so much more, I know she is the woman God wanted for me Unfortunately health issues are slowing her down, so I have to do more, but it is a joy to do it anyway. I love her so much more and she loves me so much more. Intimate moments are less frequent but when the times do come the sparks fly..

  17. happywife says:

    Shelia~ This is so good. I agree with every. single. word. We absolutely cannot change anyone but ourselves. True, we have influence over others, but we can’t change them.
    So here’s my take on it. What does a wife have to lose by taking a month and trying to love her husband for who he is? What is the worse thing that could happen if a wife decides that for one month she is not going to try to change her husband, but she is going to be pleasant, say please and thank you, and find something to praise him for each day? I highly doubt he’d get worse. Even if nothing changes, all that’s happened is you’ve wasted a month of being pleasant… LOL. He’s probably not going to change into Mr. Wonderful overnight, but if he’s been (insert character flaw here) for all these years, what’s one more month?
    What if the wife you quoted in the post started taking one day a week to bring home pizza for dinner, eat on paper plates and forgo all non-essential tasks and go to bed at 10 and make love with her husband? Just once a week. Leave dishes in the sink, put the kids to bed without a bath (the horror!), leave the laundry unfolded and declare one measly evening “time for fun with hubby!” The world will not come to an end. I am pretty confident of that.

  18. Great blog. Not only do I get to read advice that pertains to men in many ways, but I get to hear the deep frustrations that many women feel in marriage. How does one make sure they can pick out a spouse who is willing to put in the effort to love you in the ways you appreciate?

    • There are no guarantees, of course, but a book my husband gave me when we started dating (go hubby!) really helped.
      It’s called “I married you” and it’s by Walter Trobisch. It was published by IV press. It’s an easy read, but tackles a lot of important attitude-related issues. It was a great conversation opener. (but a little strange to be handed 2 hours before our first date!).

      Don’t rush into marriage – take the time to really get to know the person. How do they react to bad service in a restaurant? how do they treat their parents (and grandparents if still living)? how are they around children? do they share your thoughts on whether/how many kids to have? how do they handle money? are they always broke at the end of the month, or do they budget? if you mention a food you really like, do they make a point of bringing you gummie bears, or do you still get m&ms because it’s what the other person likes? do they bring you red roses because it’s traditional, or yellow dasies because they know you love those?

      As I said, no guarantees, but there are clues you can follow. :)

    • I will tell you Will what my son does when looking for the right one. He gives her a couple of great godly wife blogs to read and then a week later asks her what she thinks. If she throws up all over the content of how to be godly spouse, you probably have the wrong one :). The right ones are going to be very interested in what the Bible says about being a godly, wife not just wanting to be married..

  19. I have been reading for a few months now after seeing a link from another blogger and I have a few questions because several of the comments resonated with me and because of the irony of what I have been thinking the last week or so as I read this blog. I mean no disrespect but wonder about the following things.

    First, you state that you write to women so you are writing and being hard on them. However, during my time here more than 2/3rds of all posts are directing at changing our husbands and not ourselves. I even went back and looked at old posts to see if this was the case and it seems by far there are way more posts concerning husbands then wives.

    I noticed that the wive articles are also not talking about serious problems but more lighthearted things like laugh together and be friends. Were the articles about our husbands are talking about being inconsiderate, being a bad parent, selfish, too much media or video game times, porn and so on.

    Lastly, I rarely see scripture. Especially scripture that talks to the marriage relationship specifically.
    Would you be willing to share your heart with me on these things Sheila?

  20. Also, remember that one of man’s biggest need is to be needed (Shaunti Feldhaun For Women Only?). So we really aren’t doing them any favors when we are super women. Especially the women who are also martyrs about it-that’s adding insult to injury. It’s hard to help your helpmeet if she’s made you feel obsolete with her overwork.
    Merrie Beth Day recently posted…Who’s The Leader In Your Home?My Profile

  21. What a great post. I loved your last sentence, “take control of what is in your control. Examine yourself first. Do what you can. Change the dynamic. And then see what happens!” I could not agree more. Thank you for your pointed insight and for not being afraid to tackle touchy topics. Wonderful!!!
    Tammy Greene recently posted…Thought for the DayMy Profile

  22. I really enjoy your blog! I follow you on pinterest, and I love your honest, frank posts that have a heart of helpfulness behind them! You have wonderful marriage advice to give and I appreciate the efforts you make in this blog to build up marriages!
    Crystal Moore recently posted…New Blog Contributor: Meet Crystal!My Profile

  23. I think i’m going to have to stop following this blog. Maybe my situation is unique or something (I doubt that, but maybe) but I tried everything I knew of to make my marriage work. The “submit-more, speak-less, do-more, have-sex-more” plan.. the “set-boundaries, do-less, speak-more (respectfully of course)” plan.. counselling, asking for help from our church.. and nothing helped. In fact, the first plan made things worse, the second one made him leave and the third and fourth one left me without support as a single parent.

    It doesn’t matter what you try to do. Unless both parties are willing to work on a marriage, there is no “fixing” it. Unless both actually want a good marriage, nothing one person will do will change anything. And my husband didn’t want our marriage to change — he liked being able to hurt me, however he saw fit, and didn’t actually want a real woman, just a fantasy, the image of being married without it requiring anything of him.

    I will clarify – there was physical, emotional and verbal abuse present in my marriage, both directed at me and at our children.

    I am now 6 months into separation, and 2 months into divorce proceedings. What hurts most? He doesn’t care that I want a divorce, as long as he gets to keep the house.

    This blog keeps making me feel guilty – that there was something more I could have done. But there wasn’t. And regretfully, I think I need to stop following.

    • Oh, Sarah, I’m so glad you got out! That kind of abuse shouldn’t be tolerated, especially when it’s also directed at the kids. When someone is abusive it’s because of their own sin and their own heart, and you can’t change that. Only God can. Sometimes by separating that’s just the kick in the pants they need, the reality check they need, to do some real soul searching. That’s why God says, “You reap what you sow.”

      The problem with marriage advice is that it works in the aggregate, but not always in each specific case. We should give more. We should love more. We should pray more. These are all things that are true. But at the same time, there are times when that won’t be enough because you can’t change another person. For most people it’s exactly what they should do. For others, they really need to get help and often get some distance.

      I wish you all the best.

  24. I found this post out of desperation because my husband won’t do anything at home. In one of your replies you said, “How is Christ glorified if a woman is worked to the bone while a husband plays video games for six hours at night?” This is us, this is me. We both work full time jobs, yet I get off earlier than he does so its like I’m the one coming home to the 2nd job. When I say he won’t do anything, I mean anything. I see every single man on our street out doing yard work, yet my husband won’t do ours. So not only am I solely responsible for everything inside, I’m doing the outside work too. My husband comes home from work and will literally sit on the couch and not get up until he goes to bed, which is usually after 2 am. He says I need to ask him for help. I do. He says i can leave him notes to remind him. I do. I’ve told him I can’t physically carry the load and work full time. he says he’ll help but never follows through. He may do one thing, but there’s never any lasting change. He thinks if he does one load of dishes, that he’s really lightened my load.

    I’ve been working on me. I’ve been disrespectful to him and I’ve been changing. I don’t know how to set boundaries in this. Even last night, before going to bed, I asked if he would clean up after himself (he eats dinner in the livingroom where he watches tv or plays video games) I come down at 6:30am and find his trash still sitting there. I try to leave things out and not clean up after him, but that doesn’t work. Our yard is so overgrown right now, but that doesn’t phase him. He used to have a very stressful job that he worked over 50 hours a week at and I think during that time, I stepped up and let him relax more at home bc my job is very stress free. Now he’s at a job where he only works 40 hours, no stress, sitting down but he’s still treating things as if he’s at his old job. Plus he now has a guy’s night once a week and I’m just like how is this okay? Yes, I’ve voiced everything to him.

    What do I do? Based on all the comments I read though I will say that I don’t have any extra curricular activities bc I’m too tired. My daughter is allowed to do one activity at a time. We are not over busy on things that I can cut back on. I’m tired, worn out and becoming bitter.

    • JD, I felt this way for many, many years. I understand your frustration that despite the constant communication, nothing actually changes! I realized that I had to just let go of my standards for the house, and my expectations that he should have the same ones. I was the one who cared, therefore, I was the only one who noticed it, thought about it, fixated on it, and was frustrated by it. The solution was, if the yard was not kept up, it was not kept up. I am one person, and I can’t do it all. If the dishes are laying around, they’re laying around. Letting go allowed me to stop mulling over my frustration regarding these things. I stopped asking all of the time, and left it to PRAYER. It was a lesson in patience (and endurance)! It took time, as it truly was a new way of thinking about things. Crazy enough, my husband began to pick up the slack on all of the things that he usually didn’t do . It SLOWLY became a new way of life. I also focused on praying for HEART change in my husband, as it felt he was so self-involved that he wasn’t aware of my (true) needs. This persistent prayer DID change his heart, and he is a very conscientious husband now. FOCUS on your relationship with Christ, as that is WHAT MATTERS. Those frustrations fade away when you begin to learn that loving God, and his overwhelming love for us, is worth dwelling in!

      • CM,
        Thank you so much for this encouragement.
        After reading through these comments yesterday and a few other posts I feel like I came to that same conclusion. I need to leave it with God in prayer. I need to stop caring as much. I need to understand that just bc I care about or notice how things are, it doesn’t mean he does.
        I think its so hard feeling so unappreciated and feeling like I’m just his maid. My daughter is at an age where she can pitch in a lot more, so that is really helpful. I think its also frustrating how he’s always on her case about cleaning up her stuff, but he leaves out the exact same things and it will sit there for days before he gets it. I don’t get it!
        Thank you again so much. Just getting to “let it out” and hearing your response has really helped put it in perspective.

  25. Out of curiosity, how would you recommend the wife change her actions to try and remedy the scenario you listed… “The problem in many marriages, though, is that the person sowing the bad stuff isn’t reaping it. So dad is grumpy and mean to his wife and kids, and the wife and kids walk on eggshells around him so as not to set him off. They’re reaping what he is sowing.” Like I said, just curious.

    This is a great post, it really has me thinking!
    Ashley – Embracing Homemaking recently posted…Chalk Drawings for Kids – WhaleMy Profile

  26. Please do not get offended and delete me, hear me please. This message is on my heart. I feel the need to write here for women, as there seems to be no person who speaks in support or respect for women and wives. It is so hard for me to believe that women spend their time scolding other women..
    Shelia, if you are only writing to women and not to men, why are you allowing men to come here and grovel and complain about women/wives. To many women, most who will not comment, get the impression of a ” beat up on wives ” atmosphere and yes men you all are always right, so you all can jump in and scold women too.” If this site is to women, then either you all need to remind men that this is not a good time for them to scold women, or you can include a counselor to also lecture men/husbands..

    Shelia, this is why so women get hurt and upset over the messages in this site. The topics seem to dwell on wives’ wrongs. Your sight shines an unfair, imbalanced light here and on other marriage sites, when all the site writers do is allow the scolding and blaming of women/wives.

    I wonder why women are so against each other and men dont do the same acts to their gender members. Why can’t women spend their time writing about the crucial issues in the lives of women and girls? look forward to the day when women writers will respect women enough to do this. :)

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